The leaders of low-lying countries threatened by rising sea levels called on wealthier countries to take action on climate change at the U.N. General Assembly this week.
"We simply have no higher ground to cede," Marshall Islands President David Kabua told the assembly, according to Reuters. "The world simply cannot delay climate ambition any further."
Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih echoed Kabua's appeal, telling the assembly, "The difference between 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees is a death sentence for the Maldives."
Climate scientists have long warned that rising global temperatures will cause sea levels to rise drastically as more sea ice melts. In 2019, the average global sea level was 3.4 inches above the average in 1993, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
President Irfaan Ali, president of Guyana, accused high-polluting countries of "failure" and warned that climate change would kill far more people than the COVID-19 pandemic has, Reuters reported. While Guyana is not an island nation like the Maldives and the Marshall Islands, it is low-lying and relies on seawalls to protect some of its cities on its coast.
"We hold out similar hope that the world's worst emitters of greenhouse gases that are affecting the welfare of all mankind will also come to the realization that, in the end, it will profit them little to emerge king over a world of dust," said Ali.
"This is not only unfair, it is unjust," Ali added, stating that countries like his will bear the brunt of the consequences from climate change.
According to the NOAA, nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population lives in relatively high population-density coastal areas, where factors like flooding and shoreline erosion are affected by sea levels.
"Higher background water levels mean that deadly and destructive storm surges, such as those associated with Hurricane Katrina, 'Superstorm' Sandy, and Hurricane Michael — push farther inland than they once did," the NOAA said in a climate change report earlier this year.
Climate change was a top issue throughout this year's U.N. General Assembly.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on the world to "grow up" and get serious about combating climate change. U.S. Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenUS, Brazil discuss ways to slow migration Mayorkas tests positive for COVID-19 breakthrough case The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Biden, Democrats dig into legislative specifics MORE called for stronger action on climate change, linking it to a multitude of global problems, including conflicts in poorer countries.
World leaders will gather again in early November for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland.
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said last week that COP26 risked failure amid competing global interests.
"There is still a level of mistrust, between north and south, developed and developing countries, that needs to be overcome," he told Reuters.
"We are on the verge of the abyss and when you are on the verge of the abyss, you need to be very careful about what the next step is. And the next step is COP26 in Glasgow," he added.